Elevate Your Banking Customer Experience With Even Better Practices for In-Person and Digital Interactions
The banking sector has undergone significant shifts in recent years, prompted by changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic—and how customers’ wants, needs, and expectations intensified in response. Four years later, banks are still trying to strike the perfect balance for their customers who demand both digital convenience and more traditional, in-person banking services.
One thing’s for sure: Whether digitally or in person, banking customers rank high-quality customer service as priority #1 when it comes to selecting a financial institution. This should come as no surprise since trust is key in banking, and consumers see great service as a signal to trust that their money and their needs will be taken care of promptly and ethically.
Here, we’ll share not just best practices, but even better ones for providing excellent in-person and digital banking experiences. Plus, we’ll discuss how to balance both so you can meet your customers’ needs as they evolve. Some of this will be a return to the fundamentals with a new emphasis relative to the banking landscape. Others will be concepts you perhaps hadn’t thought of yet. Either way, the info that follows will help you get ready to improve your banking customer experience—no matter how your consumers choose to bank.
The Resurgence of Branch Banking Post-Covid
As of 2022, 78% of American banking customers prefer to bank via mobile app or website. Only 29% prefer to bank in person. This shift in customer preference may tempt your institution to pour more effort and energy into the digital experience, but we recommend you avoid putting all your eggs into the digital banking basket.
The in-person banking experience continues to be surprisingly relevant, even in the era of digital convenience. In fact, the Federal Reserve found that visiting physical branches are still preferred by the senior population, the wealthier demographic, and those who are self-employed.
While digital channels offer unmatched convenience, they can’t replace the irreplaceable: human connection. Banks have a unique opportunity to leverage this human touch to boost deposits and foster strong customer relationships.
The Value of Human Connection With Customer Experience in Banking
“It’s a place where customers can speak face to face with someone about something that is pretty important: money. It’s difficult to not reiterate how important that is, because it’s only when things go horribly wrong that you can truly appreciate this point.” ~ David Horton, Fintech Executive
Banking customers are smart to not trust just any institution. Especially for folks who are more discerning and skeptical like the senior population, business-owners, and wealthier people, building relationships with the friendly faces representing your brand is a core component of establishing consumer trust in your institution.
With in-person banking experiences, tellers and branch employees can develop relationships with clients and provide truly personalized service to an extent that a chatbot simply cannot, like offering real-time financial advice tailored to a customer’s unique goals and circumstances. Branch employees can also provide financial advice and guidance, which can be inconvenient or even impossible to achieve within the confines of a mobile app.
Customers also love working with the same person every time and becoming familiar on a personal level. This makes stopping by their bank branch a bright spot in their day that they know they can count on. We’re humans, after all. Connections that make us feel seen and valued are, well, invaluable.
Best Practices for Cultivating Positive In-Person Bank Experiences
Unsure how your financial institution measures up with in-person banking? Here are three best practices to help you cultivate and strengthen positive relationships with your existing customers while also attracting new ones:
- Personalization: You’re in the business of knowing your customers inside and out. Learn their names, familiarize yourself with their businesses, and ask about their financial goals. In-person banking offers a unique opportunity to build genuine connections that breed trust and create lifelong loyalty with your clients.
- Efficiency: In-person banking can get a bad rap for long lines and seemingly endless waits—but you’re here to make it better. Prove those stereotypes wrong by establishing processes and workflows to streamline your in-branch operations, trim wait times, and create an atmosphere of efficiency that leaves your customers not just content, but genuinely impressed. Invest in robust training so that your whole customer-facing team is consistently doing things both quickly and accurately.
- Community Engagement: As a bank, you play a vital role in building a community with your customers, region, and local businesses. Consider hosting valuable in-person events and activities that unite people and open doors to fresh deposits. Think financial literacy workshops that empower your customers and local business partnerships that benefit your entire community. Maybe even consider hosting an ambient live music act during peak traffic times, or simply handing out branded balloons to the kids in tow. These “extras” don’t have to be extravagant—just heartfelt. The simplest gesture can help your brand locations stand out from your competitors in a big way.
The Role of Digital Banking Beyond Basic Transactions
We all know that banking customers are eager for better online and mobile customer service, as well as self-service experiences. Customers now turn to digital platforms for a wide range of their banking needs, from checking their account balances and transferring funds to accessing financial advice and services. Even bigger than online banking, mobile banking has become the clear winner in consumer preference, with mobile apps reaching almost 550 million downloads worldwide in 2023.
The Bar for Digital Banking Customer Service Is High
Beyond mere digital access, banking customers expect these experiences to be effortless, efficient, and secure.
Banking customers will compare your platform’s responsiveness and quality of support to every other digital consumer experience they have. If they can get real-time service and recommendations from retail stores, travel services, and healthcare providers, then the same standard applies to their banking experience. In fact, immediate service is the expectation for 72% of consumers.
Best Practices for Digital Banking Experiences
There are many ways to define a great customer experience. As we’ve discussed, convenience and superb user experience are nonnegotiable for customers to adopt and utilize digital banking channels. But on top of that, banking activities call for an additional layer of security and customer support, which is obvious for our industry given the sensitivity of the data that’s being shared.
What exactly do financial institutions like yours need to prioritize to boost customer satisfaction? Consider these best practices:
- Seamless Integration and User Experience: It doesn’t take much for a customer to get frustrated with a digital experience. Consumers want a user-friendly website and app experience that makes it easy for them to find what they need fast, and without hiccups or unnecessary extra steps. If you aren’t already, consider leveraging tools like digital adoption platforms (DAP) to provide interactive, in-app guidance that gently nudges customers through important processes and actions.
- Security and Regulatory Compliance: Unsurprisingly, almost all consumers (96%) report security of accounts and funds as a top priority when opening a bank account. Given the financial crimes and banking collapses that have put people on edge, consumers want to feel completely confident and assured that their bank can and will guarantee the protection of their data and their dollars—and rightfully so! Beyond simply meeting regulatory compliance in the digital banking space, commit to making clear, transparent communication with your customers a priority. Creating simple talking points about how their data is safeguarded and how you can assure their financial security. While our industry knows security is not just a must-have but the law, these days, consumers seeing breaches in the headlines regularly need and deserve reassurance when choosing banks.
- Responsive Customer Support: Just as consumers want efficient and friendly customer support in person, they have the same expectations of digital banking. It’s a win-win for your institution and your customers to implement a multi-channel approach to customer support—like chatbots, live chat, phone, and email—so that your customers can easily reach out and get support on their terms.
Optimizing Your Bank for Consistent Customer Experiences With In-Person and Online Banking
Consistency is key in the banking world. Whether your customers interact with your bank through digital channels or visit your branches in person, maintaining a consistent brand experience through great service is the catalyst for trust and customer loyalty for the long haul.
Start With a Cohesive Brand Identity
Your bank’s brand is more than just a logo or a slogan—it’s the essence of your institution. Ensure that your branding is consistent across all touchpoints, from your website and mobile app to your in-branch materials and even the ambiance you curate. Lighting, scents, music, color scheme, furniture choices, and cleanliness all play a part in building your brand image.
Consistency across the board not only reinforces your bank’s identity, but also provides customers with a sense of brand authority, reliability, and professionalism every time and everywhere they interact with you.
Implement a Robust (But Efficient) Customer Onboarding Process
When customers join your bank, their first interactions set the tone for their entire relationship. Lower the barrier to entry as much as you can to let people get started banking with you right away. A customer onboarding process that’s comprehensive yet as simple and streamlined as possible is quick and easy to move through, creates an engaging experience, and welcomes them on a high note. Guide them through the initial steps, introduce them to your services, and address any questions or concerns right away.
Don’t Cut Corners on Technology—Invest in Digital Experiences That Look as Good as They Function
Consumers will immediately be turned off by any digital or in-person experience that isn’t modern, streamlined, and intuitive. Whether via digital app or drive-through teller, the look, feel, and functionality of your IT systems—from how quickly the banking professional can process the transaction to the user experience of your branded ATMs—all of it is indicative of your brand’s credibility and quality. So, make sure your tech’s not lagging and that every experience is powered by systems with impeccable reliability and up-time, processing speed, and simple, human-centric user interfaces.
Prioritize Ongoing Staff Training
Your staff members are the face of your bank. To ensure consistently amazing customer experiences, invest in continuous training and development. Equip your employees with the knowledge and skills needed to deliver excellent service, stay updated with industry best practices, and adhere to ever-changing regulatory requirements. A well-trained team has the chops to provide exceptional service and sparks brand loyalty with your customers for years to come. Plus, training is a key element to career advancement and employee satisfaction which will help you build a winning team that wants to stay and grow with your bank.
Elevate Your Banking Customer Experience With Heitmeyer Consulting
While the banking sector has clearly undergone some major shifts—and will no doubt continue to for years to come—one thing has and will always be true: Your customers’ satisfaction is at the heart of it all. By listening to their needs, adapting to their preferences, and continually enhancing their experiences, you can thrive in an industry where customer trust and loyalty is the true currency of success.
And all of this is a whole lot easier to do with an experienced, industry-savvy partner in your corner.
For more than two decades, Heitmeyer Consulting has delivered value and provided exceptional service to financial institutions just like yours. Our owners, practice directors, and consultants possess an extensive background working in the financial services industry and have proven experience solving business, operational and technology challenges. We specialize in guiding banks through core business transformations, including Business & Operations, Core Modernization, and Platform Conversion.
Contact us to learn how we can help you revolutionize your banking customer experience today, tomorrow, and well into the future.